seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
Worldcon, as mentioned, was something of a mixed bag. Helsinki itself was great, but the con had ups and downs.

I got in Monday afternoon and spent the afternoon holed up in my hotel room torn between a strong desire to start exploring and a brutal jetlag exhaustion. Exhaustion won, but I managed to stay awake in a stupor long enough to knock myself into the right time zone for Tuesday.

Tuesday I went on a con-organized bike tour of Helsinki. Helsinki has a billion to one scale model of the solar system scattered through the city and we set out to go from the sun to Pluto. The total ride including getting to the sun and getting back to return the bikes was about 25 miles, by far the longest bike ride I've ever done, and it was amazing. The views of the city we got were stunning, the treasure hunt aspect of finding the planets was a lot of fun, and I got to meet a variety of Worldcon members who I stayed in touch with throughout the con.

Subsequently I took advantage of Helsinki's city bike program to borrow bikes for shorter trips, mostly to-and-from the hotel and the convention center. Helsinki is full of bike lanes and people seem to be using them quite a lot. My hotel was about a 3/4 mile walk to the con... not a walk I minded doing, but it was much faster doing it on bike.

Wednesday morning, worried about undercurrents of uncertainty about lines for registration, I got to the con early... and was in and out with my badge in five minutes. Registration: Well managed, never the problem, unlike at Loncon where lines to get badges were over an hour in length for quite a while. Left at odds until the con started in the afternoon, I schlepped down to central Helsinki, prowled the streets for a while admiring the architecture and the trees, visited the Ateneum national art gallery (Finnish art has such an unsettlingly beautiful aesthetic!) and got lunch at the only kosher restaurant in Finland.

Then I headed back to the con, caught the opening ceremony, and then spent a few hours failing to get into panels. It turns out this Worldcon got a lot more people than expected, than they had space for, and than they had programming for. Particularly on Wednesday and Thursday, if you wanted to get into panels, you had to show up most of an hour before the panel started and get on line. This meant that you basically had to alternate panels and queueuing rather than being able to go to a panel every hour. It was frustrating. As time developed, they added more programming space and repeated some popular panels, and at the same time, people got a better sense for how long to wait for a panel, so the lines got better, though it remained a challenge all weekend to ensure you actually got into panels you were interested in. This was frustrating even though I didn't really care all that much about missing most of the panels, because other people were and it made everyone's time management much more finicky. It was a lot harder to make plans to hang out with people when they needed to budget not just an hour for that panel they wanted to see, but also the hour before for line waiting. I got a lot of my hanging out with friends time at Worldcon done waiting on lines for panels I didn't even want to see, because it seemed like a better use of my time than waiting alone on lines for panels that sounded more interesting to me personally.

After a bit of line waiting, I went to the FFA meetup, which was a better use of my time. Things said under the seal of FFA meetup are protected by privilege, but it was fun to meet FFA people from all over the world and we hung out for several hours avoiding panels and then stayed on line together for an ultimately disappointing panel on Pirate Erotica.

Thursday I skipped the con in the morning and instead met [personal profile] ambyr and her friends for a tour of the Helsinki synagogue. In the afternoon, I missed the chance to attend a panel on Golems ([personal profile] ambyr reassured me it wasn't very good), caught a panel on the history of fandom that did the usual stuff about Worldcon I and the Exclusion Acts but then swung over to an interesting and somewhat novel survey of the early history of Nordic fandom, saw a disjointed but compelling panel on diaspora writing with Zen Cho, Ken Liu, Liu Cixin, and Israeli editor Ehud Maimon, listened to Jeff Vandermeer do an excellent job of interviewing Johanna Sinisalo and drawing out her literary themes and structures. Then I caught up with [personal profile] ambyr and her friend and we got on line for the clipping concert.

clipping was so great! Daveed Diggs has incredible charisma and the lyrics are so densely clever and so intensely science fictional both in the sense of being preoccupied with technology and in the sense of being about estrangement, to borrow the theme of the Worldcon academic track. There was, however, this to-be-expected tension between hip hop culture and SF fan culture at the concert, made even deeper by con staff's refusal to remove the chairs from the concert hall. Diggs encouraged everyone to make into aisles and non-chair laden spaces in order to dance, which we did, but that only reinforced the way the concert had been artificially limited in scale by an inappropriate venue. More hilariously, when Diggs asked the room "Who here's from Helsinki?" and got a couple of polite hands raised, he doubled over laughing and then said "Let me explain something to you: At a hip hop concert, when someone mentions the place you're from, you're expected to make noise at the top of your lungs." The very premise of a hip hop concert at an SF con in Helsinki seemed fundamentally culturally mismatched, but it was a spectacular show that I'm so grateful to have seen even in its weird context.

Friday morning, I did the Stroll with the Stars constitutional with Guest of Honor Walter John Williams and Lawrence Schoen, then attended the Business Meeting. After contentious debate, the business meeting ratified the unnamed Young Adult award and approved the name Lodestar pending reratification by San Jose.

After the Business Meeting I was pretty peopled out. I went back to my hotel room for lunch and then was so zombied out that I decided to skip going back to the con in favor of chilling out in my room watching sitcoms and cheesy action movies until the Hugo Awards.

The Hugo Awards were fun to attend, though the ceremony dragged on a tad too long because of the decision to include the awarding of the Seiun (Japanese fandom awards) and Atorox (Finnish fandom awards) as part of the ceremony. It was a nice thought to internationalize the ceremony but in practice it didn't really give those awards the attention they deserved and made the Hugos run long. N.K. Jemisin won the Best Novel Hugo again (well deserved IMO, it was the top of my ballot), Ursula Vernon gave a delightfully ridiculous speech about whale fall, and the Puppies weren't even really able to mar the joy of the ceremony at all this time.

Saturday morning, I once again attended the Stroll with the Stars, with the always entertaining Scott Edelman as the star. (Helsinki totally half-assed Stroll with the Stars, which is usually a favorite part of the con for me. Past Worldcons have gotten more than just a single 'star' for the walk, and have had locals to guide the walk to introduce visitors to parts of the city they otherwise might have missed. The walks in Chicago took us through parts of Grant Park and other highlights of downtown Chicago. In London we got some walks along the Thames. In Helsinki, in addition to getting far lower attendance, the organizers didn't even bother to go along with us on the walk, leaving a bunch of visitors to Helsinki to navigate on their own.) Then I went to the business meeting again, where the Best Series Hugo became a thing after much argument. I was pretty peopled out after this, too, so maybe 'peopled' out shouldn't be the term I use so much as 'angry at the world because of the business meeting', but I went to various panels all afternoon anyway, including a panel on Netflix Marvel shows that was largely dissecting the many, many problems with Iron Fist, a panel on the trend to more SF being translated into English, and a panel on the way digital distribution was potentially going to force the Hugos to rethink some of its categories, one of these days. I otherwise hung around the convention talking to people, skipped the masquerade but caught some of Sassafras's Norse eddas-themed halftime show, and then went back to my hotel for the night.

Sunday I did Stroll with the Stars a last time, met up with [personal profile] liv and [personal profile] jack for a far too short ten minutes, then headed to the airport to go home.

I met a lot of awesome people, had a great time in Helsinki, and there were some really cool things at the Con. But the lines were a serious damper on the fun and I hope future Worldcons will be able to do better at managing crowd sizes..
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Vividcon posted its dates. It is the weekend before Worldcon. I have flight tickets to Finland the Sunday of Vividcon. So... I'm not sure if I'll be going to Vividcon. It's still possible- I'd just fly from O'Hare to JFK Sunday morning and do a self-transfer to the flight to Helsinki, which leaves JFK at 5:40PM. But that's a lot of travel.

But I want to go to Vividcon. I had a great time this year in spite of missing a third of the con because of travel issues. And I have a Club Vivid vid I've been working on that I would like to dance to in person. Hmm.. I'll have to think about this.
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Haven't posted much on the Hugos yet. Still pondering.

The results this year seem a lot less bad to me in a lot of ways. It is obviously still frustrating that a group of trolls has disrupted the awards, but the disruption is less terrible- there is still competition for Best Novel among legitimate worthy novels, there are some choices in most of the other categories worthy of consideration, and Chuck Tingle has trolled the Puppies back with marvelous touch.

I would like the Puppies and slating in general to stop being a thing. You can read a lot of different things into the Schneier paper, but one of the big ones I read is about what the authors call the 'long tail' of nominations- the typical Hugo voter is mostly nominating works that won't get anywhere near the ballot ( I think their number was that in the Novelette category, 75% of non-Puppy nominators did not nominate any of the top 5 non-Puppy nominees), and that's how it should be. Worldcon fandom is an incredibly diverse animal and most years any given person won't agree with most of the winners. The point of the Hugos is to give us something to argue over, it's okay if the awards give the wrong result. The only thing that's not cool is when the awards get trolled, when people with no respect for fandom and its institutions decide to thwart the diversity of fandom solely so that they can laugh at people they don't like.

The Schneier paper shows that EPH on its own is not enough to get the slate entirely off the ballot, but that shouldn't be something we achieve through EPH so it doesn't really matter to me that it doesn't work. The way to get the slate off the ballot is just to persist as Worldcon. The idea that hundreds of trolls will each spent $50 once or twice in order to laugh at people they don't like is plausible. The idea that hundreds of trolls will each spend $50 every year for five or ten years in order to laugh at people they don't like is far less plausible. Eventually the Puppies will get bored, because all that is in it for them is trolling. Worldcon fandom will not get bored, because Worldcon fandom is in Worldcon fandom for much, much more than the Hugos.

If the Puppies stick around for another couple years messing up the Hugos, so what? I almost never agree with the Hugo winners anyway, so it doesn't bother me if the 'wrong' winners win for a couple years because of the trolls, and eventually they will go away.

File770 is now trotting out all sorts of increasingly complicated and annoying proposals for solving the slating problem. I really hope none of them ever come to fruition, because sure, they might help us mitigating the current trolling, but what happens in three or four years when the Puppies are gone and we still have a stupidly complicated and annoying voting system that serves no real purpose except to make the Hugo administrators' jobs harder and will take us years to get rid of?
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Mostly for my own memory, but also for others.

Books I've read that are eligible for the 2016 Hugo for Best Novel

Uprooted by Naomi Novik Uprooted review linked here
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson Seveneves review linked here
Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho Sorcerer to the Crown review linked here
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro The Buried Giant review linked here
The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu The Grace of Kings review linked here
The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu The Dark Forest review linked here
Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie Ancillary Mercy review linked here
Mother of Eden by Chris Beckett Mother of Eden review linked here
King of Shards by Matthew Kressel King of Shards review linked here
Aftermath by Chuck Wendig Aftermath review linked here
The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson Traitor Baru Cormorant review linked here
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab Darker Shade of Magic review linked here
Last First Snow by Max Gladstone Last First Snow review linked here
The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis The Mechanical review linked here
Power Surge by Ben Bova Power Surge review linked here

Books I'll probably read in the next few months that are eligible for the 2016 Hugo for Best Novel

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
Apex by Ramez Naam
The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
Results at the Hugo Awards were more or less how I expected them to be, and more or less how everyone reasonable expected them to be. The Puppies were placed below No Award in every category they dominated except BDP:LF, and in all categories with non-Puppy options, one of the Non-Puppies won. Worldcon fandom as a whole made clear its disapproval of slate nominations.

Cixin Liu's The Three Body Problem won Best Novel. As I wrote before, I thought The Three Body Problem was an interesting novel, but not a great one, and it was a novel with some significant weaknesses. I do not begrudge it its Hugo, but I do not think it takes its place among the great Hugo winners. I do think that as the first translated winner, it is of historical importance, and that's pretty neat. But look, I rarely agree with all the Hugo winners, and that's okay.

I thought the Hugo Ceremony itself was pretty remarkably accomplished. David Gerrold and Tananarive Due managed to keep the whole show positive and affirmational while making it clear how much Worldcon fandom disapproved of the Puppy trolling. The Asterisk was marvelous, framing the unusual circumstances of the Awards as a net positive for the attention it brought to the Hugos, telling the people who've been grumbling that this year's Hugos have questionable legitimacy that the important thing about the Hugos isn't the results, it's the celebration of fandom. Connie Willis and Bob Silverberg's hilarious speeches about past Hugo Awards fiascos brought valuable perspective, and again highlighted the value to be found in Worldcon as an institution with a lot of greying. Willis is 69, Silverberg is 80, and nobody could argue that their presences were anything but a boon to Worldcon. And I would seriously watch the David Gerrold and a Dalek show till the end of days.

Originally this post had a rather extended takedown of some of the arguments made by the Puppies in the wake of the awards ceremony, but I realized that was missing the point. I've seen some people acknowledge that some of the things the Puppies say are partially true, but that is exactly missing the point. Their most successful trolling tactic is to clothe toxic ideas and toxic actions in half-truths, so that they can try to pretend that they are the ones acting reasonably. It's not all that difficult to separate the lies from the half-truths, but it's an effort and it's not really an effort worth dignifying the trolls with. When Larry Correia mentions that a handful of the No-Awarded Puppies were women, he doesn't sincerely mean that he believes that the Sad Puppy slate didn't stand in the way of the sustained trend toward more women on the Hugo ballot. He just means that the Puppies made sure there were a few women on their slate so they could concern-troll about gender balance, while making offensive cracks about affirmative action winners out of the other side of their mouths.

The real point is this: Worldcon is a really massive and joyous celebration of a sustained SFF community. It is the remarkable result every year of hundreds of volunteers putting in massive amounts of time, money, and effort. The Hugos are one of the ways we celebrate our fandom, and thanks to the efforts of Gerrold, Due, the whole Hugo Subcommittee of Sasquan, and all the fans who participated in the Hugo voting process, we managed to affirm the power of Worldcon in the face of the ludicrous Sad Puppy attacks.
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As promised, the next thing I did at Worldcon was go back to manning the audio theater room for a few hours. Over my two days at the con, I did that for a total of five hours and therefore listened or half-listened to six or seven audio stories. My favorite was probably "Waiting for a Window" by Frederick Greenhalgh, which turned a bunch of tropes about the creepy island nobody ever escapes from on their side.

After I was done with that, I bought myself a Sasquan shirt and some books in the dealer's room, and then poked my head into a panel where they were exquisite corpseing a story in one minute installments. It was an incredible amount of fun. Having a whole hour to tell the story gave it a hell of a lot of time for the story to get dynamic and weird, with ever-shifting character relationships and plot hooks. The resulting story had fairy tale elements, space opera elements, psychological realism elements, surrealist elements, and a lot more.

Then I got dinner and went to another story-improvising game, a 'SF Story Slam' where we generated some plot hook words from the audience and then had three minutes to write something inspired by the words. Age range of participants was from about 12 to about 70, those over 21 were encouraged to consume adult beverages in order to act more child-like, and everyone had a blast.

Every time I go to a print-SF oriented con I see people complain about how old the crowd is, compared to PAX or Dragoncon or AnimeWest or whatever. I really want to push back against these complaints. Not only is it not true that there are no younger people there- I have never had trouble finding people my own age at these conventions, and I've been coming to cons since I was in my early twenties and to print-SF events more generally since I was a teenager- but refuting the complaints that way is the wrong way to look at it.

At the dinner I went to with media staff the day before the con, the age range was from 20-something to 60-something, I would guess. The only things we had in common were that we loved science fiction and we were committed to giving back to the SFF community by volunteering at Worldcon. We had no trouble sustaining conversation throughout dinner on that basis. And I thought it was so affirming that the community ran the gamut that way. Among other things, it makes me feel like this is a community I won't outgrow. It makes me feel like as I grow older, I will be able to return to Worldcon again and again and have it feel, as it does now, like I am in some sense returning to my spiritual home. My Jewish communities are similarly age-longitudinal, and nobody sensible ever complains that there are too many old people in those communities.

In any case, sorry for the digression, but I wanted to say it somewhere. After the story slam, I met up with [personal profile] flamebyrd and we chatted for a few hours, and then she went to sleep and I went to the filk room, the highlight of which was hearing an amazing mashup of "Banned from Argo" and "Alice's Restaurant" performed. I had had this ridiculous idea that staying up all night would be easier than trying to grab a few hours of sleep before leaving at 4AM for my flight home, but after the filking dissipated around 1:15AM, I did end up managing about an hour of sleep.

And then I flew home, Spokane to Denver to Newark. I've been trying to catch up on the news from the con and particularly the business meeting. It looks like Popular Ratification failed. I have mixed feelings about this. I think it was a bad proposal, but I hope in a few years we can try again to get 1+1 ratification. And tomorrow they'll try to sort out EPH and 4/6, with the Hugo ceremony in the immediate rearview. Should be an exciting meeting, but with my sister's wedding occupying all of my attention tomorrow, I won't be able to keep much of an eye on it.

It was strange only being at the con for two days. Normally, I'm all frantic because there are always more things to do at a Worldcon than you can possibly manage, and you always have this sense that if you were elsewhere you'd be seeing something cooler. This time, when you'd think I'd be more frantic, I was actually way less frantic. This may be because I came in accepting that I'd be missing so much that I'd assimilated this fact more. It may also be because I've been to several Worldcons now and so I have a clearer idea of what is and isn't worth being frantic about. But in any case, I had a great time in the limited time I had at Worldcon, and now that word is out that Worldcon 75 will be in Helsinki, I am excited to figure out how to get to Helsinki.
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Worldcon so far...

I started the con with a reading from Aliette de Bodard's new book, which has something to do with post-apocalyptic France and fallen angels and magic.

Then I manned the audio theater room for a few hours, as we played Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of the War of the Worlds, a trippy '70s SF concept album adapted from the HG Wells novel with narration by Richard Burton (the actor, not the explorer). Then we played a Red Panda story, a comedy superhero radio play podcast.

I caught the end of a Tom Smith concert and the beginning of an Alexander James Adams concert at the First Night festivities, held in Spokane's Riverfront Park, the site of the 1974 World Expo. Then we had an FFA meetup in the park.

And lastly before sleep, there was supposed to be a star viewing party in the park led by the Spokane Astronomical Society and Vatican Observatory scientist Guy Consolmagno. Unfortunately, Washington state is on fire right now, and the acrid smoke has so filled the air that there are no stars to see at night. Instead a bunch of people gathered on a bridge in the park to talk astronomy, science history, and so on. I got Guy Consolmagno to autograph my copy of his amazing book, Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial. Then I went to sleep.

This morning I did the Stroll with the Stars, the daily constitutional where fans and authors get to mingle. And then I went to the business meeting, which was much, much bigger than usual because of all the puppy nonsense. It was contentious at times, and the relatively high number of meeting novices meant it ran slower than everyone would have liked, but there were no great surprises. Nothing was Postponed Indefinitely except for the proposed amendment to extend Hugo elibility to two years... everything else was set on the agenda for debate over the next three days.

As to what I voted for? My tendency is with the conservatives at the meeting, generally speaking. I don't think 4 and 6 or E Pluribus Hugo will necessarily damage the Hugos, but I do think they feel like overreactions to a single year's problems. The solution that strikes me as most appropriate is to wait the trolls out and see if it really is necessary to mess with the rules. This position was a definite minority at the meeting, and I suspect it would have been a minority position even if the meeting hadn't been full of newcomers who were there to support EPH.

The most compelling and problematic retort to my conservative position is that a change to the Hugos proposed next year would require a three year ratification process rather than the current two. "Popular Ratification" aka 2+1, the proposal approved last year by Loncon to require a constitutional amendment to be approved by two consecutive WSFS business meetings AND THEN face a ratification of the whole membership of the succeeding Worldcon, is IMO the most serious threat to the future functioning governance of Worldcon, and I really hope it is defeated upon consideration by the business meeting tomorrow. It seems to me to make it just about impossible for WSFS to be responsive to current issues facing the convention. However, I will not be at tomorrow's business meeting, as I will be in the air by that point.

In a few minutes I'll be heading over to man the audio theater room once more. After I'm done there, I shall dine, then probably head to a few of the parties and finish the night with some filking. Unless all of that plan changes. My flight is at 5:35 tomorrow morning. I may not sleep before the flight. Wheee early mornings!
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I have been adventuring! I hate cut-tagging posts, but if someone asks me I will cut-tag this one.

It is about 6 AM right now and my brain thinks that it's after 9. I can't drop my rental car off for another two hours, I can't get my badge for another four hours, and I can't sleep.

I flew into Seattle Sunday morning. I took the light rail downtown, stashed my bags, then walked over to the waterfront and checked out the Seattle Aquarium.

I enjoyed myself. It's not as big as some of the East coast aquaria I know, but because it's Pacific Ocean-oriented there were a lot of things I'm not used to seeing much of. And the underwater dome is really really cool- all sorts of Puget Sound-native fish all around you. I'm terrible at photography so most of my photos came out terrible, but here's a couple of decent ones.

Then I walked over to CenturyLink field for the Sounders match against Orlando. Everyone says that Seattle is the best place in the US to watch an MLS game and everyone is probably right... it was a blast. The fans were involved, singing and chanting and taunting and waving flags all game, the team is excellent, and I had an amazing view of the action from my second row goal line seats.

Sounders won 4-0, but three of those goals were scored after a late first half red card left Orlando shorthanded, and one of them was a garbage time goal in stoppage time.

Walking around Seattle afterward, I overheard a tour guide talking about the Smith Tower, which he touted as the tallest building west of the Mississippi back in the early twentieth century. He then admitted that there were a half dozen taller buildings in New York City at the time. It did my New York City superiority complex good.

The Smith Tower was, of course, overtaken as Seattle's tallest building by the Space Needle. I have seen the Space Needle. I do not have anything else to say about the Space Needle. In general, people in Seattle do not seem to have anything to say about the Space Needle.

I had dinner with friends and then collapsed. In the morning, I went to see the Seattle Underground tour, which is a tour of several of the tunnels constructed in the late nineteenth century when Seattle, the whole city, was literally raised up fifteen feet so that the sewer system would work. I found the tour glib and disappointing when it came to the details of Seattle's infrastructure, but I was fascinated by the overall idea that Seattle is a city that has spent its entire existence fighting against its own geography. And now I want to learn more about Seattle infrastructure.

I then walked to the Frank Gehry designed Central Library, which is a beautiful building and apparently a functional building, but which left me wondering to what degree that functionality is compromised by its beauty. The nonfiction stacks consist of a three story spiral from 0 on the Dewey up to 999, and I felt uncertain how this would affect useability, both from a user perspective and from the perspective of library management. It did not strike me as a setup that would be particularly conducive to a reconfiguration based on changing collection needs. I wondered what the experience of using the central library on a regular basis would be like... I'm not at all convinced that this is the sort of beautiful building that genuinely uplifts those who work within it, but I'm also not sure it's not.

I killed a few minutes reading the beginning of Stephanie Feldman's The Angel of Losses there, which [personal profile] ariadnes_string recommended a while back. It had a promising opening and I'm looking forward to digging deeper.

Then I met up with a friend for lunch and we hit the Seattle Art Museum together. Its collection is not all that comprehensive, but it was charming and enjoyable all the same. Highlights included a Donald Judd installation that really played well with the space it was housed in, an exhibition on updated takes on African mask traditions, Northwestern native art exhibits that juxtaposed contemporary artists against traditional art, and the suspended exploding white cars in the lobby.

Afterward, I walked to EMP, which had cool moments but was mostly a disappointment. The Science Fiction Hall of Fame was shit, the Star Wars costume exhibit was cool but overpriced, and the musical exhibits straddled this really awkward and uncomfortable line between corporate bullshit and musical appreciation. Suffice to say that the EMP was not at all equipped to discuss the question of Nirvana and 'selling out', and its absence was a giant hole in the Nirvana exhibit.

I did take my photo with Chewbacca, though! (My sister texted me when I sent it to her to say "Both of you had better shave for my wedding")


I'm also kind of interested in peoples' take on the juxtaposition of these two RotJ costumes. I think the museum's attempt at a justification is not terrible on its own, especially for a super-corporate museum like EMP, but I think it is missing a lot of the important context on why Leia's bikini is problematic, especially with respect to its modern fandom usage as a nearly purely erotic symbol of female performative sexuality in a con setting. On the other hand, Leia truly is an iconic character precisely because she inhabits so many different kinds of femininity. The transition from her alien bounty hunter guise to her slave bikini outfit seems to me a more meaningful contextualization than just highlighting the bikini, and I appreciate that. I also appreciate that placing the bikini onto a mannequin is effective at desexualizing it. In general, it was fascinating to see these costumes on faceless mannequins, stripped of all the energy and meaning the actors provided to the costumes.

Transcription of the plaque underneath
Distinctive and iconic, the costumes of Star Wars are among the most successful ever created for film. Costumes such as the bikini that Princess Leia wears as Jabba the Hutt's slave, and the black robes of Darth Vader, make a vivid, lasting impression. They continue to loom large in the minds of the public even decades after they were first conceived. Worn by actors who skilfully bring the costumes alive, they attach themselves to particular moments in the narrative- and help make those scenes unforgettable. And, like all extraordinary costumes, they allow viewers to transport themselves into the film. The moment the actress Carrie Fisher appears on screen in the slave bikini, something clicks between the character and the audience. You make an immediate judgement that you didn't make before, and you see a side of her which has not been seen. up this this point, Leia had been concealed beneath modest white robes, and with this scene, her feminine side is thoroughly revealed. The costume is a type that can be traced to earlier films, such as Myrna Loy's turn as the native dancing girl in The Desert Song from 1929, Yvonne de Carlo in Slave Girl, 1947, and Maria Montez adventure films from the 1940s. These early vamp characters functioned largely as sexual objects, waiting to be molded by a male character. With the Leia slave bikini, however, George Lucas turns the idea of 'object' on its head. Leia is not a character that needs to be molded. She is exposed and temporarily humiliated, but she is is in control, plotting her revenge. ironically and somewhat brilliantly, the vehicle for her revenge is the costume itself- she uses her own chains to strangle her monstrous captor.

I then had dinner with another friend and then solved a jigsaw puzzle with my host for the rest of the evening. Because yes, staying in solving a jigsaw is my idea of a good time on a vacation.

Yesterday I rented a car and drove from Seattle to Spokane. There was an amusing little drama in the rental car agency when the guy in front of me on line tried to use a corporate discount code he'd found online to get a significant discount on his rental. The agent informed him that the company in question had cancelled the discount code because they knew it was out on the internet, but the guy still tried to wheedle his way into a discount before eventually caving.

The drive to Spokane was so worth it over flying. (I stopped in an art bookstore in Pioneer Square on Sunday. The guy at the counter was polite but gruff to me until he saw the book I was buying (Imogen Holst's memoir of Britten) and clearly approved of my taste. He asked me where I was traveling from and when I told him that I was driving rather than to Spokane his approval of my taste grew even greater.) If you ever need to go to Spokane, I highly recommend driving.

First you drive out of Seattle into the Cascades, through the Snoqualmie pass, massive conifers flanking the road for mile upon mile of breathtaking views. Then, you're clear through to the hilly scrublands of central Washington, farmland and cattle land for miles. You cross the Columbia River gorge with your heart caught in your throat. There's a 'scenic overlook' a half mile on which is the site of the Wild Horses monument, a dozen or so rusty iron horses perched on top of a steep hill overlooking the gorge. As I was in no hurry, I decided to climb up the trail to the horses for the even more stunning view of the gorge.

And now I'm in Spokane and Worldcon starts in just a few hours and I am so excited!!!

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Worldcon's in two weeks! I'm excited.

I bought my attending membership last September. My sister got engaged in November and set her wedding date for Worldcon Sunday (the nerve!), so I had to rethink my plans a little, but I decided I still wanted to go to the con because of a few reasons. First, because I have friends in Seattle I almost never see, and this gives me an excuse to visit them before the Con. Second, because I'm not planning to attend MidAmeriCon next year, and I didn't want to miss two Worldcons in a row. Third, because even an abbreviated Worldcon is going to be full of awesome stuff.

So I fly into Seattle Sunday before the con. I'm going to a Seattle Sounders game, then wandering around downtown seeing touristy things like the Space Needle, then meeting friends for dinner. Then Monday I'm doing more time intensive touristy stuff, probably the Underground Tour, probably EMP and a few more museums, probably some stuff on the water, then meeting friends again for dinner. Tuesday I'm renting a car and driving to Spokane, probably stopping along the way for a hiking adventure of some sort.

Wednesday I'm at the con. I've volunteered to help man the audio theater program for some time in the afternoon, the remainder of my time will be seeing awesome programming stuff and meeting people. Thursday morning I'll do Stroll with the Stars, then the Preliminary Business Meeting, then a couple panels, then more audio theater volunteering, then hanging out and Worldcon parties.

Friday morning I fly home. Wedding's on Sunday. Sheva brachos on Monday. More sheva brachos on Tuesday. More sheva brachos on Wednesday... #BlueFringe #sorrynotsorry

I'll have to watch the Hugos on livestream. I'm frustrated to miss as much of the con as I am, but I'm planning to enjoy as much as I can while I'm there.
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So apparently the Hugo Award nominees were announced this weekend, and it was a huge triumph for the Sad Puppy/Rabid Puppy slates.

I don't think it's some huge perversion of justice for a popular fan award to be manipulated in this way, but I do think it's a clear manipulation. And I think the problem that non-Sad Puppy fans are faced in future nominations races is that the solution of creating some oppositional non-Sad Puppy slate is preposterous because there wasn't in fact a conspiracy of fannish insiders coordinating the nominations in past years. Non-Sad Puppies is not a bloc with a unified aesthetic approach to science fiction. It's just everyone in fandom who isn't a troll.

The initially baffling thing about the SP/RP slates is their aesthetic choices are baffling. Last year, the problem with Larry Correia's Warbound was that it was so incredibly worse than the other four nominees for best novel. Even supposing every voter for the Hugos read all five novels and evaluated them purely on aesthetic merits, it's hard to imagine Warbound having a shot at winning. (This wonderful post by Matthew Surridge about his reasons for declining his Hugo nomination does a great job of explicating the broader aesthetic problems with the Sad Puppy manifesto.)

If Sad Puppies had truly wanted to position itself in favor of purely popular SF, the slate would have looked a lot different. If Sad Puppies had truly wanted to position itself in favor of well-written but right-ideologically-oriented SF, the slate would have looked a lot different. The Prometheus Award manages to find quality libertarian SF every year with very little controversy, after all.

But the choices are no longer baffling when you consider the SP/RP slates as a pure act of trolling. The choices, in fact, are better if they aren't great, because the purpose of SP/RP is not to win awards, it's to piss on the choices that the Hugo Award voters were making before they got involved.

This is not good for the Hugo Awards. Either Ancillary Sword or The Goblin Emperor win against a weak field, or a weak novel claims the prize. And moreover the whole structure of the voting process is damaged. There almost certainly WILL be a left wing slate next year, no aesthetically superior to the Sad Pupply slate, and the result will be to crowd quality out of the competition.

However, I wonder if Sad Puppies will paradoxically turn out to be good for Worldcon as an institution. Nominations for the Hugos were up more than 200 ballots, which may mean 200 extra supporting/attending memberships as compared to Loncon3, which posted recorded attendance for a Worldcon. Whereas the Hugos represent a judgement on the part of fandom about the best works of SF written in a particular year, proven out over fifty years to be a reasonably reliable marker of quality, Worldcon just represents a large and incredibly diverse group of SF fans getting together to have a gigantic party together. If Sad Puppies calls more attention and brings more new members to Worldcon, that is all for the good for Worldcon. Worldcon benefits from diversity, even diversity of the kind Sad Puppies may bring.

Regardless of the outcome of the Hugo voting, I encourage anyone who is passionate about science fiction to consider attending a future Worldcon. Sasquan will be my third, and it is my firm intention that it will be my third of many, because I had so much fun both at Chicon and at Loncon.
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A lot of text follows. It is probably incoherent and should be ignored:

I'm back in the states after LonCon 3, which was... amazing, intense, exhausting, and a lot of fun.

I got into London Wednesday morning, though it took me until about 2 in the afternoon to actually get settled in my hotel, because of what became a recurring theme in my travels in London: getting lost. I think I have diagnosed my problem to something that seems obvious and stupid in retrospect. Of course the cars drive on the left side of the road instead of the right in London, and that's one thing and it didn't really bother me because I wasn't driving anywhere. It meant my instincts about crossing busy streets, carefully honed on the streets of Manhattan, were wrong and I had to be careful that I was actually looking in the right directions, but otherwise it didn't affect my travel. However, because the cars drive on the left side, other things also move on the left side, which honestly had never occurred to me. Trains run on the left track. People climbing stairs cling to the left instead of the right. The slow lane on escalators is the left side, unless there's a sign indicating otherwise. So one result of this is that I was constantly walking in the wrong lane and having to correct myself at the last minute. But the result of this that got me lost is that after many years of taking NYC subways, my main technique for orienting myself upon leaving a subway is to use the direction of the track to tell me which way is North. The direction of the track is my compass. And in London, my compass was 180 degrees backwards, and about three times over my five days in London I walked a significant distance in the exact wrong direction, following the directions perfectly except for that one initial mistake, and got thoroughly turned around before I realized my mistake.

That afternoon was my main touristing in London time since the con wouldn't start until Thursday. I wandered central London for a while, enjoying the architecture. I saw the Tower of London, which had a special memorial to the World War I dead in the form of a display of poppies commemorating the dead, and walked the Tower Bridge. I climbed the Memorial to the London Great Fire, a spire designed by Christopher Wren which offers beautiful panoramic views of central London to anyone willing to scale its 300-some claustrophic spiraling stairs. I walked past 221B Baker Street, but mainly because it was on the way to a kosher deli I wanted to eat dinner at.

I planned to continue some touristing the following morning, but I overslept because, you know, Jetlag and crazy stuff like that. That would have been my best opportunity to visit the Tate Modern, which I really wanted to see and sadly missed. So I just made my way to the ExCel center for the Con.

One of the first things I did was to run a game of the indie rpg Tears of a Machine, a Giant Mecha game where the players play angsty teenagers entrusted with piloting giant mecha against an alien menace. If they fail to keep their overwrought emotions in check, their giant mecha will lose control. Tears of a Machine has fantastic mechanics for balancing these emotional questions, and I've been wanting to run it for a while. It came out pretty well. I was clumsy on the rules for the battle scene, and ultimately that was probably the least fun part of the session, but the stuff leading up to the battle, the various players struggling with ordinary teenage issues about school, family life, and relationships with friends, worked really well even though it was a bunch of players who didn't know each other. So I was pleased with how that turned out.

Then there was a panel on Raumpatrouille Orion, put on by the German SF Society, which I basically had to go to because of [personal profile] jetpack_monkey. It was interesting, particularly when they discussed behind the scenes information and went over some of the trivia about how the special effects were done. Unfortunately I had to leave early because of a conflict with a lecture I really wanted to be at, which was the right choice because it turned out to be one of the highlights of the convention.

The highlight of Thursday at the Con, and one of the overall highlights of the Con, was a lecture by Kim Stanley Robinson about pacing in fiction. His primary examples were the writing of Virginia Woolf and Olaf Stapledon, contemporaries who both made use of speculative technique, though one is classified a Modernist and the other a Science Fiction writer. I want to set down some memories from this lecture because it dealt with questions I've been struggling with as a writer for years and have written about before.

Stapledon's masterwork, The Star Makers, is a history of the universe, spanning millions or billions of years in the span of a couple hundred pages. Woolf's writing in To the Lighthouse pioneered stream of consciousness technique that slowed the movement of time down by considering every action. But Woolf was interested in telling stories about the passage of significant periods of time, and Robinson advanced evidence that Woolf had looked to Stapledon in the technical choices she made in writing her final novel, Between the Acts- to some degree unsucccessfully, Robinson claimed.

To create a sort of rough tool for comprehending these choices of technique in pacing terms, Robinson proposed using an actual quantitative measure of story pace by dividing the amount of time passed over the course of a novel by the number of pages to calculate a time per page metric for evaluating books. Stapledon's book topped his metric, while a gimmick novel where the entire book describes a hallucination experienced by a drowning sailor in the minute or so it took him to die set the benchmark for slowest advancement.

Obviously in any novel this metric can be broken up more granularly passage by passage- pace will vary over the course of a novel. But what is the technique by which we vary pace? Robinson suggested it was the choice between expository writing and descriptive writing that gave writers control over pace. Descriptive writing allows the writer to tell what is happening at a particular moment, and is therefore putatively slower than expository writing, which has the ability to tell what happens over a long period of time rather quickly.

Robinson then mentioned the hoary trope of "Show, don't tell", which was clearly a bugaboo of his. Showing rather than telling, he said, is the Modernist aesthetic project in a nutshell, in a rejection of Victorian exposition. Showing rather than telling, in other words descriptive rather than expository writing, is an aesthetic choice rather than an objectively superior writing decision, and making the decision to fully commit to descriptive writing removes tools from the writer's toolbag that allow the writer to move the story faster. Meanwhile, as a genre of Victorian origin, science fiction has always been much more comfortable with making use of exposition, to move time forward faster and for other reasons, and Robinson traced this difference as the cause of the 20th century bifurcation between 'high' and 'low' literary culture: a difference in aesthetic between the Modernist preference for slow, descriptive pacing and the SF reader's preference for plotty, fast-paced stories.

As a synthetic principle toward overall more interesting writing, he suggested that writers should make conscious choices about the form of their writing in order to vary the pacing of the fiction. He said that his general principle, taught to him by the SF editor Damian Knight, is to speed up the boring parts and slow down for the exciting parts, but he said that even though this seems like the obvious way to do it, there are successful counterexamples. He cited Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin cycle as a successful novel that speeds up for the exciting parts (battles and such) and slows down for the boring parts (ordinary life at sea). So my main take away from the lecture was my writing will be more interesting and better if I think more consciously about how and why I use expository passages in my stories.

Afterward, I ended up at the OTW tent hanging out with a bunch of random fans for a while until I decided to head home. The OTW tent was such a cool thing to have: It was located in the 'Fan Village' where various fandom-related groups had pavilions for promoting their work and answering fan questions, but they decked out the OTW tent with pillows and chairs and made it a chill-out area for anyone who wanted to step away from the craziness of the con for a bit. I made use of the tent several times during the con, as a place to crash on a pillow when I was exhausted or to join into a conversation about how ridiculous the web of MCU character relationships are when I wasn't quite as exhausted. It was a place at the con that felt particularly emotionally safe.

The built up presence of transformative fandom at Loncon was noticeable and incredibly welcome. I wrote in my post on Chicon that it was frustrating how I felt in most spaces like mentioning my fanfiction would have been frowned upon, but between panels on fanfic, panels on fanvids, and the visible presence of the OTW, my sort of transformative fandom had a coming out party at Loncon, and it made me feel so much more comfortable at the con. Though there were moments like the guy who wandered into the OTW tent to inform a fangirl that shipping was obscene. ("And you do that on purpose? You just decide that two characters should get together?") As I seem to say to [personal profile] sanguinity after every traditional fannish gathering I go to, "Oh fandom never change*" *I mean change! Change as much as you can, as fast as you can!

Friday morning I saw another panel involving Kim Stanley Robinson and the curative powers of exposition. This one also had Cory Doctorow and a couple other authors I can't remember, and it was less successful though still interesting. Robinson came off more arrogantly and the panel format didn't give him enough time to qualify all of his thoughts as much as they needed to be qualified, though I was really glad that he shot down the meme that "Science Fiction is the literature of ideas" by saying that realistic fiction in competent hands is also a literature of ideas.

[personal profile] liv organized a dreamwidth meetup on Friday, which featured [personal profile] jack, [personal profile] starlady, [personal profile] kaberett, [personal profile] hatman, and others whose names I didn't catch. It was fun to meet everyone, though obviously [personal profile] hatman, it seems kind of silly we had to go all the way to London to meet in person for the first time when initially we met online in the [community profile] nyc DW usergroup. We should probably arrange to meet up some time in the City. I ducked out of the meetup for a half hour to see Jordin Kare's concert, because JORDIN KARE, but when I returned there were still a bunch of folk talking and the whole thing was fun.

JORDIN KARE! I didn't see as much filk as I'd intended, because I didn't see as much of anything as intended, but I knew I had to see Kare. He sang "Fire in the Sky", which made we weep on the Challenger verse even though, you know, I've heard the song fifty times and I was one year old when Challenger happened. "Fire in the Sky" is, in a nutshell, the reason why I go to filk shows, because this is music that speaks to my heart and my dreams for the future.

Yet the gods do not give lightly of the powers they have made
And with Challenger and seven, once again the price is paid
Though a nation watched her falling, yet a world could only cry
As they passed from us to glory, riding fire in the sky

The rest of Kare's show was great, particularly a pair of songs about a machinist in battle with a designer that rang a little to uncomfortably close to him. I also ducked into Gary Ehrlich's show, which did not prompt quite so overt FEELS, but which was entertaining as I expected it would be.

After that, I headed back to my hotel room for Kiddush, to welcome in Shabbat.

I learned that I need to do a better job of thinking about Shabbat at Cons.

I've actually got Philcon down to a science, after several years. I had zero Shabbat problems at Philcon 2013. Low floor, refrigerator for premade foods, know where all the stairs are, know how to avoid the automatic doors, and in general, I know how to avoid things that pull me out of a Shabbos feeling.

But WorldCons by their nature are different each time, so I can't seem to learn lessons from one to apply to the next. At Chicon my only Shabbat problem was that the hotel put me on the 19th story. So I made sure that at Loncon I had a low floor room in a hotel with stairs and thought I was good. At Chicon, staircases in the con space were unlocked and used not only by Jews but by most of the con who didn't have mobility issues to move from floor to floor when elevators were occupied. At Loncon, the only ways to get to the rooms where panels were held was via escalator, with an elevator available for those with mobility issues. So in order for me to get up to the panels on Saturday, security had to unlock a fire exit and let me up the staircase, which only happened after I asked three or four different site security people, Con Ops, and two different people at the information desk (the second one with someone from Con Ops standing with me to apply a little extra pressure). As a result, I stayed up on that floor sitting in on panels for eight hours because I didn't want to have to go through that tzouris again. And then when I finally went down, I didn't go back up again until after sundown. I also underestimated the length of the walk from my hotel to the con, which turned out to be a lovely 3 mile walk to make at 2AM Saturday morning.

But I'm determined this time to learn the correct lesson. Rather than merely attempting to pin down the problems from the last WorldCon, like a farmer repeatedly closing barndoors after the cows have escaped, I've sent a message to Sasquan asking for their help dealing with any possible Shabbat accessibility problems, whether or not I've thought of them. The goal shouldn't be to make sure that my last screwup doesn't happen again, the goal should be to have a complete Shabbat plan ahead of the weekend. That means that before I go to Worldcon, I should know the answers to the following questions:

1. Am I lighting candles? If so, where am I getting the candles and where am I lighting them?
2. What wine/libation am I using to make kiddush?
3. What siddur am I using?
4. What am I using for challah?
5. What is my Friday night meal?
6. Am I going back to the con after friday night meal, and do I have a short, straightforward path back to the con that doesn't require me to use elevators, escalators, or electronic doors?
7. Do I have a clear path around the con that doesn't require me to use elevators, escalators, or electronic doors?
8. What is my Saturday lunch?
9. What am I doing for Havdalah?
10. Where/How am I davening?
11. What have I forgotten?

Because when I achieve that, my Con experience and my Shabbat experience can be really powerfully complementary experiences. Both are events that emphasize shared community, thoughtfulness, reflection, joy, song. They can work together to be a very positive thing.

Friday night I'd originally planned to go to the open filk, because it kind of feels like a substitute for the Shabbat tradition of the tisch, sitting around a table telling stories and singing songs. The open filk was up on the panel floor and I hadn't yet figured out how to get the stairs thing to work, so I stayed down at a performance by Mark Oshiro of Mark Reads fame. In which he read and tried to make sense of some of the most preposterous cracky fanfic I've ever seen... Robocop/Batman, Draco/Apple, Sailor Moon/WTF, Dean/Castiel/Pie. It was wildly entertaining.

Saturday I attended the Business Meeting in the morning, which was a learning experience for me. It was interesting to see the kinds of perspectives voiced at the meeting, and in some cases a bit surprising. There was a lot of debate about a motion to require changes to the WSFS convention to be ratified first by the business meeting and then by the whole membership of the following convention instead of as at present by the business meeting of two successive conventions. There was some good debate on the issue, and I think there are points in favor of both sides, with the pro side arguing convincingly that the proposal gives all members of the convention a greater stake in its governance, and the con side arguing that it will create space for nastier, social-media driven ratification fights and that it will make the ratification process less flexible than in person ratification debate can be. But there was also a smoffy undertone to the discussion about how only the people who show up at the business meeting care enough about the issues to vote wisely. Certainly not everyone in the business meeting felt that way- the motion passed, after all- but enough did that they felt comfortable saying so aloud without being defensive about it. [Sample dialogue: "I chaired a Worldcon several years ago and still found time to make it to the business meeting at that con. If you really want to, you make the time."] I feel like I learned a lot about how Worldcon as an institution is perpetuated, and for the most part I was impressed. There was a lot of thoughtful debate by people very experienced in the operation of conventions and committed to ensuring the continued health of Worldcon. I was also taken aback by how conservative the whole thing is. Conventions and our expectations for what they will provide have changed drastically over the last 70 years, and Worldcon is not really set up for drastic change.

Despite this, I was impressed in general with how well procedurally the meeting was run. There was no acrimony, there were many thoughtful questions, and all this as very contentious issues went back and forth in the debate. Sometimes this kind of smoothness can signal that minority voices aren't being allowed to speak, but I don't think that was happening here. I just think it was a well run meeting kept moving effectively by people who know how to keep geeks from fighting with each other. I saw a lot of really substantial argument happening, and as I get a better feel for the politics I expect to get more involved in the business meeting in the future to try to make ensure Worldcon can move closer to being the thing I want it to be. (Though maybe that's a strike against the meeting... it definitely felt like a place where novices could not comfortably step in without learning how procedures worked first, another thing working against significant change.)

I attended both of [personal profile] such_heights's vidshows, the first being a sort of general overview of popular and/or awesome fanvids, the latter being a sort of roughly chronological history of fanvidding vidshow with more discussion. Vids that are awesome on the big screen include: [personal profile] chaila and [personal profile] beccatoria's "Hands Away" Olivia Dunham/Sarah Connor vid, [personal profile] franzeska's "Baby I'm a Star" Carlton vid, [personal profile] bironic's "Starships" space opera multivid, and "Hold Me Now" Princess Tutu AMV. It was especially great watching "Starships" in a room full of fans, getting the full impact of all the holy shit moments that vid celebrates. On the other hand, Lim's "Marvel", still technically a marvel of vidding prowess, was somehow less impactful on the big screen. [personal profile] starlady and I considered this and thought it might have been because the extra space let you have the time to unpack the visuals a little more, so they didn't quite slap me around the same way they did on my laptop screen.

There was also a panel featuring Scott Lynch and others about the role of the D&D cleric archetype in heroic fantasy literature, whether that role had evolved over time, and what role it had in the future of the genre. I liked some things about the panel, but it was hamstrung by the panelists' lack of knowledge about the history of the D&D cleric trope, as laid out in Maliszewski's posts on Grognardia for example: The Original Cleric and The Implicit Christianity of Early Gaming, which would have made a far better baseline for the conversation. To Lynch's credit, he did mention some of this stuff, but the rest of the panel wasn't too interested in it, and so the conversation kind of wobbled at first on "But Tolkien didn't have any clerics" before discussion of present interesting use of religion in heroic fantasy revived it. I liked the conversation about how to use the tropey D&D cleric- with divine power and a mission to provide a support role to the other fighters- as a fantasy protagonist. The panelists discussed exploring religious doubt and its consequences on the cleric, as well as methods of using this character role with non-divine support characters such as medics. I also wished the conversation had talked more about the evolution of the cleric over the forty years of D&D history, and how that evolution might speak to the evolution of the character in heroic fantasy. The fourth edition version of the cleric is very different from the first edition version, and not only for game-balance reasons. There have also been changes in the aesthetic and thematic traditions of fantasy in that period that the game rules changes acknowledge. I may have a full post on this theme later.

And there was also a panel on "the state of British SF" that I attended in the hopes of getting recommendations, since, you know, you'd think that London fandom would have good recommendations for new British SF writers doing cool things. It was a terrible panel, populated by several publishers and several academics and no actual readers of SF, and so instead of talking about cool SF, they talked about the state of the market and the state of 'literary movements' and managed to fill the hour and a half while mentioning only about a half dozen names of writers. The only name I emerged from the panel with was Chris Beckett. And the highlight of the panel was when one of the publishers said that the reason she publishes more male than female writers is because she judges based purely on quality and the fact is she gets more male submissions than female submissions. This was the highlight of the panel because when she said it, the whole audience basically hissed in disapproval in unison, because we are fucking tired of that bullshit.

Then I disappeared for dinner and such, and slept for a while in the OTW tent, and then I resurfaced for Seanan McGuire's concert, because hearing Seanan sing "Wicked Girls" live for an appreciative audience is always a blast.

Sunday was the end of the business meeting and the second of [personal profile] such_heights's vid shows and then I ditched the con for a while to see, at [personal profile] starlady's recommendation, a music/art installation in a lighthouse that once belonged to Michael Faraday called Longplayer. It's a piece of algorithmically composed music for a set of Tibetan bells, programmed not to repeat a sequence over a thousand year period. You sit in this lighthouse, within London and yet set apart from the bustle of the city, and you just listen and contemplate your own insignificance. The music is barely music: we hear such a tiny fragment of the overall composition that it's impossible to get any sense of the shape of the piece, just twenty minutes out of the thousand years in my case. The single first chord of Stairway to Heaven comprises a larger fraction of the overall work than what I heard in my twenty minutes. You can't escape the sense that sitting there is a waste of time, because you're not getting anything out of the performance and even if you stayed for days you wouldn't be able to get much out of it, and yet... that experience of wasting time felt meaningful. It made you conscious of how we make choices about how to spend our time and even choosing to waste time doing nothing but stare out a lighthouse window at the London skyline while listening to meaningless music is a valuable choice.

My last panel of the Con was a panel on the growth of a sub-sub-genre in between SF and litfic that calls itself LabLit. I got bored of this panel after an hour and left it, but here is the movement's manifesto of retroactive incorporation into the genre: The LabLit List. The panel was okay until it started to be a rant about science in fiction so narrow that it probably left the Mundanes out of its list. And I dislike the Mundanes quite a lot. Poor Gregory Benford, who writes just about the hardest SF I know, was pretty much left on the sidelines when another panelist said something about how time travel was impossible and therefore time travel fiction was all fantasy. [Benford's masterwork Timescape is one of the greatest time travel novels ever written, I think, as well as being one of the most densely scientific novels of any genre.] I like the idea of LabLit, of fiction that tries to tell realistic and compelling stories about the experience of doing science. I expect to spend some time reading things from the list as I try to figure out how to write my own version of LabLit, an Avengers Team!Science fic that has been in the works for a couple years and whose stumbling block is my lack of experience with literary techniques for making this kind of story work. But the actual people who write LabLit turn out to be kind of obnoxiously self-regarding.

About the Hugo Award ceremony, I don't have all that much to say, except that it's fun to be at the ceremony giving an award that I've held in such esteem for so long. The Hugos really matter to me as a representation of how my community values the stories that compose its core texts. I was thrilled that Ancillary Justice won for Best Novel and the rest of the awards also made sense. Though I felt that Abigail Nussbaum deserved Best Fan Writer over Kameron Hurley, I am not upset, especially not after Hurley had Kate Elliot deliver such a fierce and powerful acceptance speech. Here, let us bask in its glory:

I’m told blog posts don’t matter. I’m told words don’t matter.

I’m told this by storytellers who know that the only thing that matters is words – and the ideas we convey with them. I’m told this by storytellers with a deep fear of people ranting on the internet.

Fans and pros write for all sorts of reasons, chief among them being love. I write for free online out of love, passion, and often – rage. Rage that the very stories I love punch me in the face. Rage that storytellers, many of them my colleagues, grind to dust my most fervent hopes and desires for a future that includes me and others like me.

It was this rage, I thought, that would preclude me from ever being nominated for a Hugo. Science fiction does not like change. Creators don’t like being called on their BS. But in looking out at my fellow nominees, whose own work I admire so much, I suspect it is this rage, and this desire for positive change, that is fueling our future.

Thank you all for supporting this change. Thank you for championing the voices of myself and my fellow nominees. I know we have a long way to go. I’m glad you’re all on board.

So yeah, that was the Hugos. They're on a journey to recognize the full diversity of the SF community, and this year's ceremony was one more step on that journey. So that was good, though occasionally frustrating, as can be expected. Then I ran to my hotel, slept as long as I could, then woke up early to catch my flight home.

I've seen the usual post-Loncon reflections in the blogosphere about how unwelcoming the predominantly white, predominantly male core of old-school fandom was toward people from outside that set: Complaints of racist harassment, of women being shouted down or talked over by men at panels, of men mansplaining and lecturing and the like. I've noted several examples of the same in this post, and I saw others, and heard reports of others still from friends. Worldcon should do better and Worldcon must do better, and I hope that this year's posts will continue the conversation about how to make it do better. On the other hand, I want to talk about all the ways in which Loncon represented significant progress.

The OTW/Transformative Fandom tent and the Fan Activities tent represented the most obvious and important change from my perspective. For a lot of the con, the OTW Tent served as my home base at the con, a place I could go to regroup when I was low on energy and know that I was among fans who shared my basic approach to fandom. It represented more than that practical place for me, though. It represented the idea that finally Transformative Fandom was not going to be made fun of at Worldcon, that I could actually talk about my fic openly without expecting that people would explain to me why profic was superior or tell me the MZB Darkover cautionary tale in horrible condescending fashion. This idea was amplified by the presence of a whole track of Transformative fandom panels in the programming, as well as a sequence of panels about race and gender and sexuality in fandom, instead of there just being one sort of catchall diversity panel as there has been in the past. Not all of those panels were productive, and some of them were clearly problematic, but some of them were productive, and the presence of this stuff IN QUANTITY was a really big deal even if it clearly caused growing pains. I just hope Spokane can live up to the example Loncon set as far as this goes, and just keep pushing the conversation forward.

So then there was the flight home, wherein everything went fine until apparently a mail truck drove up to my airplane at JFK and carted a whole cannister of luggage out of the airport without telling anyone. So that was the end of my trip, and it was about as much fun as you would expect.
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I've been extremely busy, but it would be remiss of me, having mentioned my surprise at how many women there were at Worldcon and how it seemed to me that for the most part they were comfortable and safe, to not acknowledge the discussion that's come out in the past week or so about the Readercon Creeper's appearances at Worldcon, and some creepy things he did at Worldcon.

I don't really have anything in particular I want to say about this. I don't want to take back anything I said in my last post. Just that obviously Fandom can still do better. And I didn't want my broadly positive post about Worldcon to come off as minimizing the problems.
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
So... WorldCon is over. I was in a bubble of not caring about the outside world very much for the past week; I am slowly reacclimating.

It is frustrating, but when I think about WorldCon some of the things that most stick out are the regrets. I wish I had found time to sit in on the book discussion panels about RUR, Frankenstein, and Pebble in the Sky. I wish I'd spend more than a couple hours in the filk rooms. I wish I'd seen more of Story Musgrave's panels, I wish I'd seen more of John Scalzi's panels, I wish I'd seen more of Sy Liebgot's panels. The GoHs were doing awesome things and I mostly missed them. I wish I'd dropped into the SF film festival. I wish I'd managed to hit a couple more kaffeeklatches. I wish I'd gone to some readings. I wish I'd gotten to run a D&D Next playtest. On the other hand, there was maybe one Con event all week that I left thinking "I wish I hadn't sat in on that."

There wasn't remotely close to enough time to do everything I wanted to do at WorldCon.

I did attend some really great panels on astronomy and astrophysics. I attended some great panels on writing and character building and world building. They have me excited about writing and trying to apply some of the new techniques and ideas I learned. I saw the masquerade and the Hugo Awards. I managed to wake up every morning for the Stroll with the Stars, which was a great opportunity to meet other fans and authors, see Chicago, and slowly wake up. I only went to room parties one night, but had a blast at them. I got to listen to some of the field's legends tell stories and share advice. I went to a meetup for internet strangers that proved a lot of fun. I learned several new board and card games. I played SF trivia and finished about tenth. And then there were the true intangibles, of just being in a place where casually slipping references to The Fountains of Paradise into conversations with people I'd never met before doesn't send the conversation to a crashing halt. I loved being in a place with so much shared context.

Major frustrations mostly stemmed from getting assigned a 26th story room despite requesting a low floor. I climbed a hell of a lot of stairs on Shabbat. Otherwise, my WorldCon Shabbat was nice- I attended the super-awkward Friday night service and we managed to carve out a meaningful moment despite lack of leadership and lack of theological consensus. And between panels and games and the morning walk, I never lacked for Shabbasdic things to do. I had a conversation with [personal profile] kass a while back where we discussed how cons can sometimes have a feeling that tries to pull you away from the ruach of Shabbat, but besides the stair issue that feeling never really cropped up.

Hmm... Other observations: Worldcon is expensive as hell. I had a great time, and I want to be part of the community again, but I'm not sure the experience justifies the costs. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to try to go to LoneStarCon next year.

Also, on diversity issues: Worldcon fandom skews old and it skews white, but it surprisingly does not skew male all that much. I am sure there are women who have negative experiences because of their gender (some women did tell me about harassment they've experienced at past Worldcons), and I'm sure that my privilege blinds me to some of the problems, but I really saw little evidence of problems, and I saw a lot of women productively and comfortably participating in the convention.

Worldcon also skews American and Anglophone, but Mary Anne Mohanraj moderated a really productive panel on improving the internationalization of Worldcon and it seems clear that this is a thing which can get better and which people are actively working on improving. They discussed how the Japanese Worldcon failed to integrate the Anglophone and Japanophone communities so that it effectively felt like two cons, and how the prospective Japanese bid for a future Worldcon is rethinking the way it does translation to make panels more cross-linguistically accessible. They discussed fundraising methods for getting more non-English SF translated into English, how to bring non-Anglophone writers to Worldcon, and even how to do non-English readings. A Chinese panelist read from his novel in Chinese and we analyzed the experience and discussed how we could transform that moment of culture gap into a meaningful shared experience via subtitles or pre-distributed translations. Mohanraj described a Bengali poetry reading she organized where the majority of the audience didn't understand the text, but still appreciated the reading for the beauty of the sounds and rhythms and the fact that it brought poets to their attention that otherwise would have escaped their radar. Outside of this panel, I spoke to con members from Norway, Sweden, Australia, Denmark, England, Japan and probably several other countries. Worldcon isn't quite as international yet as it could be, but it does offer a lot of neat opportunities to meet fen from all sorts of fannish worlds.


seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)

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